Little things, local things, said my friend Sandie and I thought, she’s got a point. I should make an effort. We humans are surely not intended to be so solitary? And then, serendipity, I saw a tweet from Davina who has a fabulous shop in town. Number Seven. And she hosts a Walking Book Club. And I remembered how she’d told me about it when she was setting it up. We’d discussed a book we both loved – The Night Circus. Would I come, she asked? Of course, I said. But somehow I never had. But now? Why not? So I picked up a copy of the month’s choice – A Proper Education for Girls - read it that night and it was a fine old romp.
And I told Sandie and she raised an eyebrow. ‘A walking book club?' she said. 'What a strange idea - how can folk properly discuss something in a group if they're all walking along?? Someone's going to end up at the back and be unable to hear a thing. You Exmoor folk are a tad strange at times, I think. Don't people like to sit down with a glass of vino in those parts? Are they all madly outdoorsy??’
Which made me smile because yes, on the whole, people here are all madly outdoorsy. And certainly a tad strange. But hey, I like reading and I like walking so… Dan and I pitched up at Number Seven and off we went.
‘The first bit is pretty steep so we won’t talk about the book until we get to the top,’ said Davina. Aha, so that answered Sandie’s question. And we walked up through the allotments and up past the old school house and into the hollow way that leads up to Court Down. And then we sat down in a field, amidst the tall grass, and just had a very civilised little chat about the book which then veered out into other good books, and excellent and not so excellent films and even took a little side plunge into the question of how society’s views towards women had changed and not changed since Victorian times. And the three dogs barrelled around and it was…nice.
And then, when we were done talking, we meandered off again and walked down to Marsh Bridge and along the Barle and then climbed up again at Burridge Woods to avoid the scree slope, and Davina and Marion talked about the hut up at the hill fort. And how they’d found it festooned with bones when they’d been there last.
‘Ah,’ I said. ‘That would have been me. Did you find the skull?’
‘There was a skull?’
‘Oh yes. But I put that in a nearby tree, to watch.’
We clambered back down into town and, on our return to the shop, Davina brought out a little table piled with proof copies of books and said we were welcome to borrow any. So I nabbed a couple and have spent this morning sitting in the sun reading Goat Mountain by David Vann. A dark, disturbing book about an eleven-year old boy and three men on a mountain for their annual deer hunt. But the boy shoots a man, not a buck, and the quartet pull themselves apart over questions of morality and mores, the rules and beliefs by which we choose to live. Did I enjoy it? No. It's not a pleasurable read. But it certainly gives food for thought.
Anyhow. Next month's book choice is Revenge by Yoko Ogawa - 'A slice of life that is resplendent in its chaos, enthralling in its passion and chilling in its cruelty'. So that sounds pretty jolly. But I'm not going to read that until nearer the date because the downside to reading extremely fast is that I can rarely remember a book for more than a day or so. So now I'm back to the garden with the next book Davina lent me - Perfect by Rachel Joyce.
If you live on or around Exmoor, why not join the Club? Check out the website for book choices and dates. If you don't live on or around Exmoor, why not join and 'virtually' walk instead? Buy the book (all book club choices cost £5 from Number Seven) and share your thoughts on the blog (while walking in spirit, of course).
Please note that all pics are © Davina Jelley. Please do not reproduce without her permission.